Adrenal cancer, as the name suggests, is a cancer of the adrenal glands. Adrenal glands are located above the kidneys. This cancer affects single or both triangular glands. Our adrenal glands produce specific types of hormones. These hormones give instructions to most of the tissues and organs in our body.
Cancer of the adrenal is also called adrenocortical cancer. It affects individuals of all age groups. But children below age five are more prone to adrenal cancer. Individuals between the ages of 40 and 50 years are also prone to this cancer. Growth within the glands is largely benign or non-cancerous, including pheochromocytoma or adenoma.
Early detection can help in potential cure. However, treatment is less effective once cancer has spread beyond the glands. Treatment is used for minimizing the recurrence or progression of this disease.
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There are three types of adrenal cancer. These are:
Major symptoms of adrenal cancer are:
Experts are yet to confirm the cause behind adrenal cancer. Cancer develops when DNA mutations occur within the adrenal glands. Our DNA gives a certain set of instructions to our bodies. A mutated DNA will instruct cells to grow aberrantly and live. Conversely, healthy cells die during this process. These aberrant cells grow and become a tumor. These tumor cells then divide and spread across other locations.
Risk Factors: The risk of adrenal cancer is higher among those with genetic conditions. These disorders increase the chances of other cancer types. These hereditary symptoms can be:
Factors determining the tumor stage are disease age, disease spread, and personal features of the patient. There are four stages of adrenal cancer.
Stage I: This is the beginning stage of cancer. In this stage, the size of the tumor is less than 5 cm in diameter. It is located inside the glands at this stage.
Stage II: In this stage, the size of the tumor is above 5 cm in diameter. However. The cancer is confined to the gland.
Stage III: In this stage, the tumor becomes even bigger. It has reached the nearby lymph or fat nodes adjacent to the gland.
Stage IV: This is the last stage of the tumor. Here the tumor has reached organs and nearby lymph nodes. The cancer cells can be found at faraway locations in the body. Common sites are the lungs, bones, peritoneum, and liver.
Early diagnosis can improve the treatment outcome for adrenal cancer. Cancer diagnosis depends on various factors such as patient age, tumor spread among others. Tests can be a physical examination and other imaging tests. Common diagnosis tests for adrenal cancer are:
Urine and Blood Tests: Cancer results in unusual hormone results, including aldosterone, androgens, and cortisol. Urine and blood tests reveal these hormones.
Imaging Tests: Doctors conduct imaging tests to identify the growth of cancer. It can also help detect cancer spread outside of the adrenal glands. These can be liver or lungs. Imaging tests include PET scans, MRT, or CT scans.
Lab Analysis: Your doctor can also order a lab analysis. The adrenal gland is tested in a lab. The doctor may recommend removing the gland. Lab tests can help determine the cancer spread and its stage. This helps in choosing the right treatment plan.
Surgery is the most preferred treatment for cancer of the adrenal glands. The doctor will suggest the removal of the entire gland. This helps in reducing any recurrence. Other treatments are also available if a surgical procedure is not an option.